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Condemnation of the Priesthood
An arraignment against Israel as a whole, because of all manner of wickedness against God and man. Prophet and priest, who ought to have taught them better, are only too like them in character, and must share their doom. In Hosea 4:15-17 there is an appeal to Judah not to follow the idolatrous practices of Israel.
1. Controversy] i.e. a lawsuit: cp. Isaiah 3:13, Isaiah 3:14.
2. By swearing] RV ’There is nought but swearing.’ Break out] commit acts of violence. Blood toucheth blood] The whole land is covered with the blood of the murdered, a strong expression to denote the frequency of murder: cp. Isaiah 28:8.
3. The whole land (with its animal and vegetable life) is polluted by their sin, and must share their punishment: cp. Jeremiah 4:23, etHosea
4. Thy people, etc.] The reading here seems corrupt. We should probably read, ’thy people are as they that strive with Me. O priest, thou shalt stumble,’ etc., Hosea 4:5-6 being addressed to the priest.
5. The prophet] i.e. the class of prophets who said what they knew would please their hearers: cp. 1 Kings 22:11-12; Isaiah 30:10; Jeremiah 5:31.
Mother] i.e. the nation: see on Hosea 2:2.
6. Lack of knowledge] The priests should have instructed the people in God’s law (i.e. His moral teaching), and were therefore responsible for their ignorance. Instead of that they had wilfully refused even to learn themselves. Thy children] i.e. the whole body of priests, who only sinned worse as they increased in number.
8. They eat up] RV ’they feed on.’ The priests enriched themselves with the sin-offerings, and with this aim encouraged instead of checking sin: cp. Ezekiel 34. Set their heart] i.e. took delight in, because it paid so well.
9. Like.. priest] Priest and people had sinned alike, and would be punished alike.
10. Eat.. enough, etc.] Greed and lust were both violations of God’s natural laws, and would therefore have an un natural result.
11. Heart] here probably as the seat of ’the understanding’ (RV).
12. Cp. Jer 11:27. Idols were frequently made out of stumps and stems of trees, and were not only worshipped, but sometimes used for oracular purposes. Such a thing proved how senseless the people had become.
Whoredom is here faithlessness to Jehovah; but as such rites as those referred to were characterised by gross licentiousness, the metaphor is especially appropriate.
13. The summits of hills were the most frequent situations for sanctuaries in primitive times; hence the ’high places.’ Elms] RV ’terebinths.’ Trees were often connected with sacred rites: cp. Isaiah 1:29; Isaiah 57:5. Therefore] Such faithlessness towards Jehovah would be punished by the faithlessness of their daughters.
14. I will not punish] They have no right to ask Jehovah to punish sins in their daughters or their brides, which in another form they commit themselves in their impure rites.
15. Let.. offend] Hosea appeals to Judah not to imitate Israel’s sins. Gilgal (that of Benjamin: cp. 1 Samuel 13:8) and Bethel (’house of God,’ here contemptuously called Bethaven, ’house of vanity,’ i.e. idolatry) were two of the most important Israelitish sanctuaries: see Amos 4:4, Amos 4:5. The latter had been a sanctuary since the days of Jacob (Genesis 28:22; Genesis 35:1-8; Judges 21:2). Nor swear.. liveth] Hosea is here condemning the use of Jehovah’s name in oaths, because that name has been so profaned by its association with idolatrous symbols.
16. Slideth back.. heifer] RV ’hath behaved himself stubbornly like a stubborn heifer,’ as yet not fully trained to bear the yoke, which jibs instead of going obediently forward. Now the Lord will feed them, etc.] better, ’now would the Lord feed them,’ etc. He would gladly have treated them as docile lambs, not as stubborn heifers. Others understand it as an exclamation: ’Israel is stubborn and self-willed. How then can the Lord feed them as a lamb in a wide pasture I’
A large place] always in Scripture used as a symbol of safety (Psalms 18:19; Psalms 118:5).
17. Ephraim] i.e. Israel. Let him alone] a general exhortation to any who might seek to meddle with idolatrous Israel.
18. Their drink is sour] RM ’their carouse is over.’ Hosea is referring to some idolatrous festival. With shame.. Give ye] RV ’dearly love shame,’ with reference probably to licentious practices connected with idolatrous feasts.
19. Wings] RM ’skirts’: a curious metaphor to express the completeness of their punishment. They would be carried off without reprieve by the wind of judgment. They.. sacrifices] RM ’Their altars shall be put to shame,’ i.e. by being destroyed.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Hosea 4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18